How to Become an Engineering Expert

25 Oct

I must admit that for most of my undergrad studies, I felt like I was always in catch up mode. I was catching up to the courses taught. I was catching up to the reading material I had to go through. Most of all, I was catching up to some of my fellow students who were outright brilliant. It’s like you were a regular batsman and find yourself in the same team as someone like a Sachin Tendulkar. However, unlike cricketers, one thing engineers  can rely on is time to make themselves better. Sporting icons enter the endangered species territory once they cross 30 whereas for engineers that age is hardly an indication of retirement.


In order to become an expert, it’s helpful to know what makes other experts tick. One example of a well-known cricketer is Rohit Sharma. He’s a very talented cricketer and has natural abilities that a lot of other batsmen would die for. Aren’t some of your engineering heroes/gurus like that? Do you know friends who can write mind-boggling code at will? Know people who get deep down into electron movement when talking about how transistors work? Heard of that guy who developed that drone that can pick your nose hair with the rotor blades and he’s 12 years old? You have to realize that or natural ability is just the beginning. It takes a ton of dedication and hard-work to develop it. Just like our friend Rohit Sharma says.



For the engineering world, I would like to replace talent with natural inclination. As an example, a typical course program for undergraduate studies exposes a student to a wide range of courses. In my case, I thoroughly enjoyed all courses related to televisions, microprocessors, systems design, and materials science. If you’re a student or an early professional jot down three or four courses which you really enjoy. These are the ones that you can read for fun.


Hard Work

I’d like to replace hard work with persistence. Once you’ve identified the courses, what are the ways in which you apply the learning material. Persistence means how often you keep applying your knowledge in different ways. As an example, completing one project on, say, stepper motors will help you understand better how these motors work and how you can program them. However, one project is not enough to make you understand everything about motors and the issues you might face in other applications. To understand the material really well, you have to delve a bit deeper, it might require working on multiple projects, and so on.


According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10000 hours of deliberate practice to reach the world-class status in any field. So when you see a player like a top class cricketer or tennis player beating greats when they are nineteen, know that they didn’t pick up the game yesterday. They had been hacking away at it for the last ten years or more. Definitely it takes a good amount of talent or natural inclination to become a good engineer. However, it takes hours and hours of reading, project work, thinking, to become the guru that you aspire to become.


Thankfully engineering careers can be as long as you wish them to be. If you’re not a teen engineering wonder, no worries. You’ve got time on your side.

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